Cavities are the most common enemy of your child’s teeth.
These are holes in teeth that can grow bigger and deeper in the long run, due to the buildup of plaque – a substance made up of germs that causes tooth decay. To minimize your child’s risk of developing cavities, each of the following factors must be addressed.
Cavities thrive in children’s teeth due to 3 factors:
- Agent: Bacteria +
- Host: Tooth +
- Substrate: Sugar
Here are some preventive dental care tips you can practice at home with your little ones, and with the help of your child’s pediatric dentist for early treatment.
At Woodbridge Kids, we don’t just treat your kid’s cavities and tooth decay symptoms. We also teach the entire family how to keep teeth strong and healthy with preventive dental care that starts at home.
Brush Teeth Twice Daily
Brushing teeth is acts as a physical method for the removal of plaque (full of bacteria) and food (sugar) from the teeth.
It is especially important that your child goes to sleep with clean teeth. While awake, saliva acts as a buffer and helps slow the bacterial action. When asleep, there is less saliva flow and therefore less protection for your child’s teeth. If your child is not brushing their teeth after meals, or before going to bed, the bacteria that already lives in their mouth combined with leftover sugar and food residue will produce an acid that attacks the enamel of their teeth.
A common mistake many parents make is instilling good dental habits in their children when they are already toddlers, when they are already expected to brush their teeth to avoid cavities from forming, and their teeth from decaying; or at least slowing down both processes if they already started impacting their child’s oral health.
Even your baby needs proper dental care as soon as they are fed solid foods, and their milk teeth begin to show. Brushing their gums is a good way to care for their teeth and ensure healthy growth. You can use a wet, warm washcloth, or a dampened piece of gauze to clean their gums. There are also soft rubbery devices that fit around your index finger and act as early toothbrushes for babies. As your baby grows into a toddler and have more milk teeth, you can slowly move them over to toothbrushes for kids.
To keep your child’s teeth healthy, it’s important that their daily routine includes brushing their teeth at least twice a day, typically once in the morning, and once before going to bed. Using a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste, make sure to teach your child to brush all their teeth – including those in the back, and not just the ones in front.
After brushing, make sure they thoroughly rinse their mouth with water. When your child’s milk teeth are strong and healthy, these are able to preserve good spacing for their permanent teeth, and they are at lower risk of suffering from tooth decay and gum infections, such as gingivitis.
Here are some ways you can make brushing teeth a fun, regular activity for your kids:
- Don’t wait until it’s well into their bedtime to brush their teeth. When kids are tired, they can be uncooperative, and can later on forget to brush their teeth. Make brushing their teeth part of their bedtime routine.
- Make brushing their teeth fun! If your kids are 5 years old or older, you can let them choose their own cute and fun toothbrush, as well as toothpaste flavors they want to try – just make sure to check with your pediatric dentist to make sure that these are safe and effective in keeping the cavities away.
- Make dental care a family affair. Instead of calling brushing teeth and flossing tasks, make these activities part of your family bonding before bedtime to set an example, and show your kids that taking care of teeth is something their parents and older siblings do, too.
Assist Your Child with Daily Flossing
Baby teeth are most susceptible to cavities in between the teeth, areas a toothbrush cannot reach. Usually by 4 years old, the gaps between your child’s teeth (particularly the molars) will often close. When this happens we recommend that flossing be part of your child’s daily oral hygiene practices. Flossing works to physically remove plaque and food, while also promoting healthy gums. Make flossing part of their daily toothbrushing routine, and as your kids grow up, flossing will be natural to them, just like brushing their teeth.
Check Regularly for Cavities
Your pediatric dentist won’t always be with you to check your child’s teeth for cavities. As parents, we usually spend the most time with our kids, and paying close attention to their oral hygiene and dental care will make catching cavities early on easy.
Telltale signs of cavities include discoloration and minor pitting. By practicing good dental hygiene, you can reduce the risk of cavities in your child’s teeth and prevent them from growing. When you notice the first signs of a cavity, make sure to let your pediatric dentist know, and schedule a visit for examination and treatment.
Wean Kids off Sippy Cups and Pacifiers
Sippy cups may be great in teaching kids how to use a glass and transition from their bottles, but frequent use of these puts your child at higher risk of tooth decay that starts at the back of their front teeth, especially if they regularly consume sugary drinks using their cup.
Likewise, many parents find pacifiers useful, but kids over the age of 3 should not be using them anymore. By this time, their milk teeth are already complete, and the continued use of a pacifier can negatively affect the alignment of their teeth, as well as the shape of their mouth. Ultimately, this can lead to alignment problems that need correcting through orthodontic treatment in order to make sure that their permanent teeth grow in properly.
Reduce Frequent Snacking and Sugar Intake
Bacteria likes to live in an acidic environment filled with sugar. Frequent snacking creates the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive, causing cavities, tooth decay, and other dental issues that affect your child’s oral health, and their smile. Here are some effective ways for reducing snacking and sugar intake that damage your child’s teeth:
- Avoid Bottle Decay: Make sure your kids don’t sleep with their feeding bottle in their mouths, especially when these contain sugary drinks, such as juice or formula milk. When they sleep with a bottle in their mouth, the sugar in these liquids cling to their teeth and cause tooth decay. If your child needs a drink before, or in the middle of their bedtime, make water their go-to option.
- Less Juice: Healthy juices are great, but sugary ones aren’t. Avoid giving your child juice that’s high in sugar content, as this can lead to tooth decay. Limit their juice intake to 4 ounces a day, and make sure to only serve 100% fruit juices when you can.
- Avoid Sweet Medicine: Many kids don’t like taking medicines because of their bitter taste, so many manufacturers infuse sweet flavors in children’s medicines. However, these sweet medicines can stick on their teeth, and increase their risk of developing cavities if left unattended. Medicines for chronic conditions, such as asthma and heart problems are commonly flavored to appeal to kids, but among medicines, these are common culprits in increasing tooth decay rate in children. If your child won’t take medicine that doesn’t have added sugar, make sure that they brush their teeth afterwards.
- Beware of Antibiotics: Antibiotics can cause the overgrowth of candida yeast, that leads to oral thrush, a fungal infection that develops in the mouth. Symptoms of this include curd-like patches on the tongue, or on the inside of the mouth. When taking antibiotics and other medicines, make sure your child drinks plenty of water, and brushes their teeth very well after.
Chew Sugarless Gum Between Meals
The act of chewing increases saliva flow that helps make your child’s mouth hostile to bacteria. Common artificial sweeteners in sugarless gum, such as xylitol, help reduce the number of cavity-causing bacteria (Streptococcus mutans) present in the plaque that forms on your child’s teeth.
Chewing sugarless gum after meals is also especially helpful when your family is eating out, and do not have your child’s toothbrush and toothpaste handy.
Ensure Regular Dental Check-Ups
Schedule your child’s first visit to the dentist before their first birthday, or as soon as their first milk teeth begin to show. Practicing good dental care early on will help identify oral issues and resolve these early on, promote healthy growth of their teeth, and save your family the larger cost of more extensive dental treatments required for serious oral health issues in the long run.
Your child should have regular dental check-ups every six months to ensure that cavities are caught early, to monitor your child’s dental development, and to reinforce good oral hygiene practices. Children who are cavity-prone, and adolescents undergoing orthodontic treatment will benefit from more frequent check-ups.
Regular check-ups include a professional pediatric dental cleaning and a topical fluoride application to help keep your child’s teeth clean and cavity-free.
Molars have deep grooves in them in which plaque, bacteria and food like to hide. This is especially true for permanent molars. At Woodbridge Kids Dentistry, we offer sealants, which are protective coatings placed on molars that seal off the grooves, to prevent cavities from forming in your child’s teeth.
Sealing molars is analogous to weather-sealing wood decks. Sealants can last for several years but do wear down over time and need to be touched up as your child grows older.
Sealants are recommended for permanent molars (6-year molars, 12-year molars, wisdom teeth and premolars). In some cases, sealants may also be advisable on primary teeth. Please feel free to ask us if your child is a candidate for sealants.